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The Red and the Black (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 24, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Burton Raffel’s translations

For Balzac’s Père Goriot

“Raffel’s Père Goriot is both faithful and beautiful, and that makes it a masterpiece.” —Alain Renoir

“I predict that this translation will give Balzac’s great novel a new life for English and American readers. . . . The definitive translation for this generation.” —Peter Brooks

“[Raffel’s] translation has the vigor and elasticity of Balzac’s style, and catches with uncanny accuracy the tone of the period.” —Guy Davenport

For Cervantes’s Don Quijote

“[Raffel’s Don Quijote] recasts the original into lively English, without losing the complexity and flavor of the Spanish. . . . This Quijote flows smoothly and reads, in fact, like original prose rather than a translation.” —Adrienne Martin

About the Author

Henri Marie Beyle, known through his writing as Stendhal, was born in Grenoble in 1783 and educated there at the École Centrale. A cousin offered him a post in the Ministry of War, and from 1800 he followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia and Austria. In between wars, he spent his time in Paris drawing rooms and theatres.

After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart, and travels in Italy. In 1821 the Austrian police expelled him from the country, and on returning to Paris he finished his book De l’amour. This was followed by Racine et Shakespeare, a defense of Romantic literature. Le Rouge et le noir was his second novel, and he also produced or began three others, including La Chartreuse de Parme and Lucien Leuwen. None of his published works was received with any great understanding during his lifetime.

Beyle was appointed Consul at Civitavecchia after the 1830 revolution, but his health deteriorated and six years later he was back in Paris and beginning a Life of Napoleon. In 1841 he was once again recalled for reasons of illness, and in the following year suffered a fatal stroke. Various autobiographical works, Journal, Souvenirs de l’egotisme and La Vie de Henri Brulard, were published later, as his fame grew.

Roger Gard
was educated at Abbotsholme School, Derbyshire, and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Before his death in 2000 he was Emeritus Reader in English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. Among his publications are books on Henry James, Jane Austen and the teaching of fiction in schools. He also translated Alfred de Vigny’s The Servitude and Grandeur of Arms, and edited Henry James’s A Landscape Painter and Other Tales, The Jolly Corner and Other Tales and a selection of his literary criticism, The Critical Muse, for Penguin Classics.


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 607 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (September 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book operates on two levels. First, it is a stunning psychological portrayal of Julien Sorel, a peasant who, despite his revolt against society, ends up succumbing to it through hypocrisy. Second, it is a biting satire of 19th century France: its elitism, its hypocrisy, its pretense.

Stendahl believed that bourgeois society rules dominate, and all one can do is try to succeed within it, and do what one must in order to move up. We see that manifested directly with Julien. He hates the world that has created him, yet he has no other choice but to act according to its rules. Social mobility hinges on flattery and calculation.

Why must Julien abide to these rules? Love. His love for women of high society chains him to the dictums of these very patricians. Ironically, this love is reflective of his values. Yet, in the end, he must sacrifice the values that have made his love possible. As we see, Julien hates himself because he must sacrifice his principles for the sake of love, which becomes in the process essentially meaningless.

This is a tale replete with splendid imagery, charming dialogue, and quick wit. It's a sad state of our times when books like "Catcher in the Rye" are conferred with the status of speaking for our generation. Books like "Red and Black" hit home harder, although roughly 200 years old. This book is truly timeless. I agree with the reviewers who claim that this book must be read twice in order to be appreciated. A veritable masterpiece!
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This novel has everything: political intrigue, the psychological detail of detective work, the ambiguity of love and romance; it's a comedy of manners, but also a saga of helplessness and tragedy, incisive social commentary. Published in 1830, The Red and The Black, is timeless: its relevance to contemporary Westernized or Americanized, bureaucratic, and capitalist-developed nations is both a condemnation and a triumph.

The Red and the Black first caught my attention 25 years ago in January 1983; a stack of copies were set out on a table in the Tattered Cover Bookshop, Denver (then on 1st Avenue in the Cherry Creek area). At that time, the Penguin edition was a new translation to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the author, Henri-Marie Beyle, January 23, 1783. I don't know how or why I decided to buy a copy; maybe it had something to do with the brief review on the back cover, which was perhaps then as it is now: "Handsome, ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins." Maybe I saw something of Julien in myself, or maybe like Mathilde de la Mole, I was looking for a life outside the script dictated by parents and society, or trying to find a world beyond materialism and utilitarianism, something inspirational and possibly Romantic. It was with this novel that I first realized that a writer could communicate intimately across centuries; I fell in love with Stendhal. I wanted to know about his life. He wrote with integrity; he wrote what he knew to be true about life, and he did not let the marketplace dictate what he should write. Beyle was a human being first, then a writer.
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Format: Paperback
The Red and the Black is a profound and witty book about the rise of a poor, handsome and intellectually gifted, young provincial into the salons of High Society in Paris. This novel is also a portrait of an era in 19th century France after the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena. The powerful, witty epigrams that appear in page after page of gorgeous prose left me almost as intrigued by the talent of the author as by the unexpected twists in the exhausting love life and fascinating careers in church and state of Julian Sorel. The language of the Gard translation was truly a joy to read -- it was lyrical and rich. Stendhal's novel is an astonishing but lesser read masterpiece from the salons of Paris, which produced Moliere, Balzac and Proust to name only a few. I can't recommend highly enough this worthy and rapturous novel by Stendhal. If this is Al Gore's favorite novel, then my respect for him has gone up a notch.
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Format: Paperback
The Red and the Black is like no novel that I have ever read. The issues raised, and there are many, dealing with love, marriage, illusion, the role of religion in society, the nature of God, capital punishment, the role of class in society and countless others, are as relevant to life in America in 2006 as they were to France in 1830. The story not only has great intellectual depth, it is also wildly entertaining, as related by the sarcastic, cynical narrator who never seems to be able to decide whether he likes, or despises, his hero and those with whom he comes in contact. If I could give a rating higher than five stars, I would. This was the best book I have read in quite a few years.
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Format: Paperback
Stendhal's LE ROUGE ET LE NOIR is subtitled "Chronicle of 1830." For many readers, I should imagine, the events of this year will be as obscure as they were to me. I cannot quite fathom how the French retreated from their Revolution to embrace first an Emperor (Napoleon) then a variety of restored monarchies; the July Revolution of 1830, far from being the total overturn of four decades earlier, resulted merely in the replacement of the King by his cousin. But it is clear that there were strong currents tugging beneath the surface in religion and society, as both church and aristocracy sought to reestablish their old power and patronage, the provincial bourgeoisie held a tight grip on local affairs, and young people of talent from the peasant classes sought to make their mark in any way possible.

Julien Sorel, Stendhal's protagonist, is just such a young peasant. The son of a boorish sawmill operator in the Jura region, he develops his remarkably quick mind by studying Latin and philosophy with the local priest (his first mentor and one of the most sympathetic characters in the book) and becomes an abbé, the first step towards entering the priesthood himself. First, however, he takes a job as tutor to the children of M. de Rênal, the local mayor, who employs him mainly to boost his status in the community. Julien is young and very pretty, and Mme. de Rênal takes an interest in him that soon becomes much more. But such idylls cannot last; by the end of the first book, Julien has embraced the ascetic life of the seminary in Besançon, where his abilities evoke the hostility of his mediocre companions.
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